UN Women for Peace Association Award

Statement by H.E. Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly, at the 2017 Annual Award Luncheon by UN Women for Peace Association

10 March 2017

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Excellencies,

Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you to the UN Women for Peace Association for organising today’s event.

It is an honour to be here with you all today and to have the opportunity to offer my personal thanks to the Association for its highly influential work in eliminating violence against women and raising funds for the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.

Ladies and gentlemen,

On Wednesday, the world observed International Women’s Day.

Here at the United Nations, the occasion was marked at a standing-room only celebration at which hundreds of women’s activists and human rights defenders joined Heads of Government, stars of stage and screen, and other high-level officials, to reflect on progress made over the years towards achieving gender equality, and to acknowledge the scale of the challenges still lying ahead.

During what was a full day of events at the United Nations, I had the privilege of meeting three extraordinary young women from northeast Nigeria, who had been among the 300 schoolgirls kidnapped from a boarding school in Chibok, by Boko Haram militants in 2014.

The courage and strength of these young women was inspiring, a tangible testament to the endurance the human spirit is capable of.

Despite the horrific violence they and their classmates were subject to, despite the fear and disruption brought upon their young lives and indeed on the lives their families and communities, these young women remain resolute in their commitment to obtain a quality education. Their steadfast example serves as a clarion call for action from the international community to ensure that girls across the world have access to schooling.

There is a more sinister aspect to their experience. And that is the stark reminder of the lengths that some men will go to in order to prevent women’s empowerment.

Violence against women is an issue that fundamentally relates to the use and abuse of power and control.

It takes place in all countries, cutting across socio-economic, cultural, and religious divides.

More often than not it takes place in interpersonal settings, leaving women and girls most at danger in the very places where they should be safest – within their families, and in their homes. One in three women are reported to have experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner.

From trafficking to sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation to child marriage, gender-based violence comes in many form. Whatever form it might come in, violence against women is abhorrent   and is a flagrant violation of human rights.

Violence against women not only costs lives, but damages the health and well-being of survivors, limits their educational and economic opportunities, and has inter-generational impacts on the lives of others.

But so far, mobilizing both the action and resources needed to end violence against women has proved far from easy, with dedicated funding for programmes, services, data collection, and law enforcement, still failing to flow at the same high-levels as rhetorical commitment.

Raising awareness is critical, but as all practitioners from the field know, we must move beyond rhetoric to action. Anyone in the field will tell you, this is a complex and sometimes dangerous area in which to work.

Beyond saluting those who do for their brave commitment, we must do our part in raising funds, influencing legislators and establishing partnerships and programmes for action.

In this environment, the work and funds raised for the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women is critical, and I again express sincere thanks to the UN Women for Peace Association for its efforts.

In September 2015, the leaders of the 193 Member States of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This was an important moment in the struggle for gender parity.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has as one of its fundamental premises the centrality of gender equality in achieving all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, the fifth of these goals, SDG5, contains the specific target of eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls. I urge you all to embrace the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – they are our best chance to achieve a world at peace with itself.

Through UN Women  and the web of UN agencies and organisations we are working around the world on violence prevention programmes, providing support and assistance to survivors and their families, and most importantly, promoting and protecting the human rights of all women and girls. We carry out this vital work in partnerships with a broad range of entities, many of which are represented by you here today.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to recognise and thank the distinguished winners of this year’s UN Women for Peace awards for their dedicated commitment and service towards the empowerment of women and girls.

Your hard work, your collaborative spirit, and your determination to succeed will continue to be inspiring as we strive to realise a world without violence against women and girls.

I thank you.

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